From an elevated position on a hillside above Folkestone harbour in Kent, the smart home created by Andrew Buchanan and Stephen Richardson-Pope on the ground floor of Priory House has a panoramic view of the town and the south coast. Looking east from a decked terrace at the end of the garden, they can see a Martello tower on a nearby headland with the White Cliffs of Dover beyond. Straight ahead, over the English Channel, the coast of France is visible when the weather is clear. Cargo ships and smaller vessels glide continually across the horizon. Below, the harbour and beach buzz with activity, partly thanks to investment from Sir Roger de Haan, of the Creative Foundation, which included the establishment of the Folkestone Triennial in 2008.
It was in 2007 that New Zealand-born Andrew, a director at Joanna Wood’s interior-design practice, and Stephen, an artist and designer in his own right, bought the flat at auction. The original Priory House was built in 1725 and enlarged and adapted in the 1880s by Colonel Charles and Mary Napier Sturt. Their architect Sir Robert William Edis joined it with the house next door to create a grand seaside villa. When Mary died in the Twenties, Priory House was split up into flats and the central staircase removed. The integrity of the whole remains severely compromised, but Andrew and Stephen have made sensitive alterations on the ground floor.
The end result is a light and spacious flat with easy access to their garden. They have amalgamated several smaller spaces to form a large kitchen on the garden side, which is flooded with light from the bay window and the french windows, which lead out to a York stone terrace. ‘The kitchen used to be on the darker main- street side of the house. ‘When we lifted the green lino in there, it was like a swimming pool underneath,’ explains Andrew. ‘The whole place was running with damp. We used to huddle by the fire in the library (now the dining room) because we couldn’t afford to heat the main living room.’
‘I am now an expert on fruiting spores,’ adds Stephen. ‘We had an array of exotic dry-rot fungus sprouting up everywhere, along with rampant deathwatch beetle and woodworm.’ Despite these infestations, most of the ornate carved woodwork and historic panelling in the dining room and living room has been salvaged and restored. Inappropriate additions were ripped out and replaced by cornicing, architraves and doors that mirror the late-Victorian/Edwardian style of the main house.
A lighter, seaside atmosphere has been brought to the areas where there was no original panelling. Nautical- inspired light fittings have been used in the kitchen and on the coffered ceiling of the corridor leading to the main bedroom; here simple vertical panelling evokes a twentieth-century beach-house aesthetic.
The project was a good match for the couple’s complementary design strengths. ‘Andrew is particularly good at planning architectural spaces,’ says Stephen. ‘He had reworked the floor plan in his head before we had even bought the flat.’ Stephen, in Andrew’s eyes, is the collector and has long nurtured a penchant for sculpture. ‘I bought the bronze head of Priam in the entrance hall on a school trip to Athens when I was 16,’ Stephen explains.
Despite having worked for many years for clients with extensive budgets, Andrew and Stephen have not shied away from physical graft and inventiveness in order to achieve quality within their more limited means. They have been able to stretch the budget by commissioning talented local artisans, for example, to do structural repairs and restore the original panelling, instead of bringing in expensive labour from elsewhere.
The garden, too, has involved much back-breaking effort. ‘The first thing we did was buy a chainsaw and a lawnmower on Ebay for £25. We laid the stone terrace ourselves and have become enthusiastic amateur gardeners learning by our mistakes,’ says Stephen. Last year, he built a new walled area on one side of the property, which was ‘much to my surprise, the happiest, proudest thing I’ve ever done’
Andrew Buchanan: andrewbuchanan.com | Stephen Richardson-Pope: srpdesigns.co.uk
Article source: www.houseandgarden.co.uk